Best Zucchini Recipes 2021
What to do with lots of zucchini? Summery pizza, baked Parmesan-zucchini chips, and dense chocolate cake are just the beginning.
Anybody who’s ever grown zucchini — or had a neighbor who did — will know what I mean when I say I have too much zucchini. Those vines are the essence of abundance. I'm not even growing zucchini this year, but I still have too much: At my farmers’ market this weekend, at least six out of the ten stands had substantial piles of their summer zucchini, sometimes in multiple varieties. I couldn’t help myself.
Good thing, then, that this fruit (yup, not a vegetable) is so versatile. Its water content boosts baked goods like zucchini bread, best friend to veggie-hiding parents everywhere. Roasting, which is my favorite way to cook zucchini, caramelizes the cut edges, bringing out its sweetness while remaining decidedly savory. Shredded, zucchini's moisture keeps things like meatballs and burgers from drying out, while its mild flavor works with seasonings from around the world.
This isn’t the first time I brought home too much zucchini, so I’ve learned a few things about how to use and enjoy it. And I wouldn't be surprised if my next trip to the farmers’ market lands me with a fresh stash...
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Top tips for cooking with zucchini
Here's my best advice for cooking with zucchini.
• Start small(ish). Those boat-sized zucchini may look impressive, but inside they’re seedy and often flavorless. Opt for small to medium zucchini instead, unless you’re stuffing them — and even then, look for medium-large rather than something big enough to set sail.
• Use a peeler. Not to remove the skin — it’s so tender, that’s not necessary. Instead, grab a peeler when you want to make long, elegant ribbons of zucchini. And if you’re looking for zoodles but don’t have a spiralizer, you can stack those ribbons and slice them lengthwise.
• Go raw. You can keep zucchini away from heat altogether, using raw ribbons or shreds in gorgeous salads. It’ll soak up the flavor of your dressing nicely, so be sure to use plenty.
• Wring it. Because zucchini has such a high water content, in some recipes (especially where zucchini is shredded), you’ll be directed to wrap it up in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze the bejeezus out of it — and sometimes salt it, too, which brings out more liquid. Removing moisture serves several purposes for cooked zucchini: It firms up the texture, allows the zucchini to caramelize quickly, and it keeps the final dish from being too watery. But beware, if you’re baking a zucchini dessert, the recipe may rely on the moisture for the proper texture.
• Turn up the heat. If you want to keep your cooked zucchini more on the crisp-tender end of the spectrum, cook it over high heat in a skillet, in the oven, or on a grill. Lower temperatures let it soften and turn mushy.
Now that you’ve got some tips under your belt, let’s talk about recipes. You can eat zucchini all day long, it turns out.
Zucchini, breakfast of champions
Including a fruit-masquerading-as-vegetable in your morning meal gives your day a nutritious start. And zucchini’s versatility means you can go sweet or savory, whichever your family prefers.
Can it be summer if you haven't made at least one batch of tender, raisin-flecked zucchini bread? For rich flavor, this classic version includes a little sour cream in addition to the usual canola oil, and a touch of nutmeg in addition to ground cinnamon.
My family went blueberry picking recently, so we’re well-equipped for this recipe. It calls for not just 2 cups of berries — it also packs in 3 1/2 cups of shredded zucchini. That keeps the muffins moist, while lemon zest and juice add a lovely tartness.
My son will eat virtually anything when it’s in waffle form. As with the muffins, using shredded zucchini keeps them from drying out, while preserving all the crisp-edged, cinnamon-scented things we love about waffles. Serve with fruit for even more nutrients.
Thinly sliced zucchini and sweet corn kernels make this baked egg dish a great way to start the day. My favorite thing about frittatas: They work well at room temperature, too. And the leftovers are fantastic. Keep this one in mind for brunch.
Add bread to a frittata, and you’ve got something very like this easy zucchini recipe. The eggs get supplemented with ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, and the zucchini gets a boost from plum tomatoes and fresh basil. One portion of this zucchini casserole will definitely keep you going until midday.
Let’s do a zucchini lunch
When you want something light but substantial enough to get you through the afternoon, these healthy zucchini recipes do the job.
Quickly sauteed zucchini, bell pepper, and corn get stuffed into tortillas with pesto and cheese and then set on a baking sheet to cook in a hot oven until golden brown. How’s that for quick and easy?
A gorgeous chilled soup, this untraditional gazpacho gets its color from 2-plus pounds of zucchini and plenty of fresh herbs. The ingredients list is short — aside from the herbs and zucchini, it’s just pine nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice — but the results are sophisticated and delicious, perfect for lunch on a hot summer day.
Ground turkey has a tendency to cook up dry and crumbly, but that’s not the case here. This recipe, adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi, uses grated zucchini to keep the meatballs moist, with plenty of herbs (both mint and cilantro), spices, and juicy grape or cherry tomatoes. The result is so flavorful, you’ll be hard-pressed not to eat them all in one sitting.
Som tum is a Thai salad made with green papaya — not the easiest thing to get your hands on in some parts of the U.S. to make it at home. But if you’re as clever as the blogger behind Bitter Sweet, you’ll realize that the texture of julienned fresh zucchini makes a great substitute. Toss it with a dressing made with lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and a bit of sugar, and you’ve got yourself a fine stand-in.
If you have a spiralizer tucked away in the cabinet, here’s an excellent reason to pull it out, so you can crank out a very fresh, veggie-centric, and gluten-free lo mein in under 40 minutes total time. Red pepper, carrot, and scallions add lots of color and flavor.
Zucchini main dish recipes
At the end of a long day, everyone’s hungry. Grab some zucchini and soon you’ll be sitting down to a hearty dinner recipe with tons of flavor.
Filling, yes, but also beautiful. This clever recipe uses summer squash two ways, roasted on top of the pizza crust with fresh mozzarella, and shaved raw, tossed in a quick dressing, and served on top of the baked pizza.
When I’ve got three good-sized zucchini calling out to be used, I can’t think of a better way than to cook ‘em up with tons of spices. This curry has you raid your spice drawer and grate up some fresh ginger, then simmer it all with tomato paste, vegetable stock, and coconut milk. The result is a creamy vegan curry just begging to be served with roti, naan, or rice to grab every last bit of sauce. And by the way, we're talking a prep time of 10 minutes and cook time of 20 minutes, making this a very easy recipe.
What happens when you take some marinara sauce and then swap three pounds’ worth of zucchini slices for lasagna noodles? You get a low-carb, keto zucchini recipe that’s every bit as satisfyingly cheesy as the original version. Note that here you’ll want to use zucchini on the larger side, to give you sizable planks. Salting the slices to draw out some of the water makes the texture even more noodle-like.
Love the lean protein in ground chicken and ground turkey but fear that your burgers will be dry? Shredded zucchini (and a little ricotta cheese) to the rescue! This handy recipe, made with pantry-friendly Italian seasoning and garlic powder but no breadcrumbs, includes options for cooking the burgers in a skillet or on the grill. Serve them as gluten-free patties alongside vegetables, or tuck them into buns.
If I want my picky kid to eat zucchini, I’ve only got two possible ways to do it — inside something sweet, or something crunchy and latke-like. (Even then he may not eat it, but that’s a story for another day.) Fritters are one of my go-to methods for cooking zucchini, and Smitten Kitchen’s version is a winner. The lemony yogurt-garlic dipping sauce is the icing on the, um, fritter.
Strictly speaking these aren’t tacos, of course, but if you’re looking for a low-carb approximation that’s smothered in melty cheese, look no further. Remember how I mentioned using medium-large zucchini for stuffing? This is what I was talking about. You want them to be big enough to hold plenty of filling, and still have walls that can hold up during cooking.
Tasty zucchini side dish recipes
Looking for a little something extra to go with your meat, fish, or other protein, or maybe a little nibble before dinner? Each of these will take your meal to another level.
Roasting is a great way to bring out zucchini’s sweetness, and this weeknight-friendly baked zucchini recipe goes a step further in the deliciousness factor with a showering of Parm. Preheat the oven to 475° and roll the slices in egg whites and then breadcrumbs. Add a sprinkling of cheese, and roast the zucchini in a sheet pan. A dunk in ketchup or ranch dressing seals the deal.
These gorgeous little appetizers take a few minutes to prepare, but once you set up an assembly line they go together quickly. You're going to smear zucchini strips with tapenade and roll them up with strips of Parmesan and fresh spinach. Add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and some black pepper, and you'll have yourself an elegant snack.
Salads don’t get more beautiful or summery than this combination of shaved raw zucchini, fennel, and cucumber with fresh herbs and the simplest of dressings. As a variation, remember that zucchini also grows as a yellow squash, so see what your market has to offer!
How gorgeous is this? Carpaccio is usually made with very thin slices of raw beef or fish, but zucchini and cucumber star in this plant-based version topped with a light, minty vinaigrette plus feta (or goat cheese!) and chopped walnuts. Ideally, you have a mandoline or other hand-held slicer to pull off the cutting, but you could make do with a sharp knife. Then have fun laying out the vegetables as beautifully as you see in the photo.
If you’re grilling and looking for an easy side dish, these golden strips cook in just a few minutes but feel fancy, thanks to a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
I love this idea so much: Combine raw shredded zucchini with scrambled eggs, then tuck the mixture inside store-bought dumpling wrappers. Pan-fry just the bottoms until they’re browned, add water, and steam to cook everything through. Dip in soy sauce and you’ve got a perfectly light starter or side.
OK, so maybe they’re not an exact replacement for French fries, but let's think beyond the typical fried zucchini recipes. Panko-and-Parm-dipped zucchini sticks, cooked until crispy in the air fryer, are more than good enough to accompany my burger. Zucchini’s mild flavor means you’re getting mostly crunch and salt, courtesy of the Parmesan — my friends with slightly-less-picky kids than mine swear by these. No air fryer? No worries — the recipe includes oven instructions, too.
Talk about an easy zucchini recipe. To make this quick pickle, you simply divide the brine ingredients (vinegar, salt, fresh dill, peppercorns, garlic, and shallot) between two jars, then add zucchini spears — no cooking required! Pop the jars in the fridge and let time do its thing. In 24 hours you’ll have pickles that are firmer than the kind made with cucumbers, but no less mouth-puckering.
I wasn’t kidding when I said zucchini is versatile. Check out these desserts that play up its natural sweetness and take advantage of its tender, moist texture.
Dark, fudgy brownies bake up extra moist, thanks to finely shredded zucchini and vegetable oil in the batter. The gooey, chocolatey flavor comes from chocolate chunks and cocoa powder.
If we eat with our eyes, I just ate a whole cake. Cinnamon flavors this beauty through and through, from the zucchini-supported batter to the sweet-and-spicy swirl to the pretty speckled glaze on top. Cinnamon is my weakness. This cake is all mine.
If “zucchini cake” calls your name but “zucchini cake with cake mix” meets your time constraints, then this one-bowl treat will be just what you’re looking for. Shredded zucchini and Greek yogurt guarantee it comes out nice and moist.
I have to say, if someone baked this for my birthday I would not be disappointed. A deeply chocolatey layer cake studded with chocolate chips hides shredded zucchini. You can’t see or taste it, but that moistness? Totally zucchini. Add some rich buttercream frosting, and even the most adamant vegetable-hater (hello, my son) will devour this.
So much more zucchini
Still looking for inspiration for those summer vegetables? How about some ratatouille or one of these next ideas?